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Corruption: Breaking the Code of Silence

October 01, 2003  |  by - Also by this author

Not one of the officers contacted for Police's October 2003 feature "Cracking Down on Bad Cops" would admit that they or their colleagues had ever been affected by the code of silence. Their comments went something like this: "The code of silence is not part of the culture of this agency."

Experts say that if that's true then morale at the agencies in question is worse than anyone can imagine. "The only way you won't have a code of silence in any workplace is to have just two or three people working there and have them all hate each other," says police ethics researcher Neal Trautman, director of the National Instititute of Ethics. "Any cop who says there isn't a code of silence is either incredibly naïve or blatantly lying."

Most cops won't admit to non-cops that they operate under a code of silence, but given the chance to say so anonymously they are much less guarded with their answer.

"We conducted a two-and-a-half year study on the code of silence that involved more than 2,000 officers nationwide," says Trautman. "The result was that 532 officers confided to us that they had actively taken part in the code of silence, meaning that they had done something like falsifying records or lying to internal affairs about the actions of another cop."

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